Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley is one of the most strikingly beautiful natural features of Central Australia, its iconic sandstone bluffs and cliffs being extremely photogenic. These free standing cliffs form part of the James Range, and are particularly attractive in the early morning and late afternoon when the rainbow-like rock bands are highlighted.

The coloured rock bands in the sandstone cliffs were caused by water. In earlier wetter times, the red iron of the sandstone layers was dissolved and drawn to the surface during the Dry Season. The red minerals formed a dark iron surface layer with the leached white layers below.

This dark red capping is hard and weathers slowly, whereas the softer white sandstone below weathers quickly into loose sand. Weathering and erosion are also responsible for the valley shape, where sandstone blocks have been eroded into rock faces and squared towers.

A 2km walk (orange markers) along a creek through palm groves leads to a stairway and return along the gorge rim. A longer 5km walk (blue) takes you up over the rim with fantastic views and then down into the upper valley. Walking downstream you can get some shade and maybe the breeze might come up and get funnelled down the valley. This track then meets up with the orange walk.


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Reach Rainbow Valley from Stuart Highway by taking the turn-off to the Reserve 75 km south from Alice Springs. From here it is a 22 km stretch east, along an unsealed road which has some sandy patches. For this reason, access is recommended for 4WD vehicles only.

The Reserve is accessible all year round, with the cooler months from April to September being the most pleasant.

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